Sharp start puts Cats on win road
Kilkenny 3-15 Dublin 1-17 Leinster MHC final
The Rose of Mooncoin rang around Croke Park. The River Nore will never run dry. Kilkenny 3-15, Dublin 1-17.
Kilkenny, the Electric Ireland Leinster Minor hurling champions for the 57th time.
The sun shone on HQ. The centre court had come to the Jones's Road.
The Cats were the favourites. They had DJ Carey's son, Michael, at full-back. Alongside him was Tommy Ronan, Adrian's son.
Dublin were the holders. They were first out from under the Cusack Stand. The Hill was closed.
Kilkenny played into the Canal End. They had two goals in the sack within four minutes.
That would prove the decisive factor in the game. "Conceding those two early goals was huge," reflected Dublin manager, Fintan Clandillon.
"We did get back level after that, but we never led at any stage, and that was significant.
"Their third goal came at a crucial time. And that opened up a big lead. Yet we reacted well again, but when you concede three goals in any game, you are always going to struggle."
Down the corridor, the Kilkenny boss, Pat O'Grady, praised the conviction of his players. "This time last year we weren't Leinster champions, and it has been a long 12 months," said Pat.
"The talk in Kilkenny was that maybe we hadn't the conveyor belt coming through, but fair play to the lads who dug deep and grounded out the result.
"We were quick to settle. We had talked about it, but sometimes you can talk all you like, and things don't happen. But it did on this occasion.
"We are going home with a bit of silverware, and we are very happy with that. We'll focus on the All-Ireland series now, and we know we have a lot to work on."
It was the full-forward, Adrian Mullen, who cracked in Kilkenny's opening goal within seconds of the start. Mullen had a marvellous match. And it was Seán Ryan who arrowed in a splendid second goal. The black-and-amber flags were fluttering gently on the breeze.
Kilkenny led by 2-7 to 0-10 at the interval. And seven minutes into the second period, Ryan got his second goal. He showed strength to make a yard on the left before driving the sliotar to the right-hand corner. That made it 3-8 to 0-10.
Kilkenny were at their best after that, picking off some pretty points, with Mullen especially prominent.
Yet Dublin didn't lack resolve. The captain and midfielder, David Keogh, was leading by deed. And Seán Currie landed a punnet of strawberries.
Four minutes from time, the Dubs were lifted by a goal from the impressive Enda O'Donnell.
Dublin reduced the deficit further with late strikes from Currie and two from Keogh.
But Kilkenny always had enough about them.
"Yes, Kilkenny deserved their victory," noted Fintan Clandillon. "But there's great character within our squad. We were determined at half-time, but we just fell short."
Scorers - Kilkenny: A Mullen 1-9 (4f, 1 65), S Ryan 2-2, E O Shea, N Brassil, C Heary, J Ryan 0-1 each. Dublin: S Currie 0-8 (6f, 1 65), D Keogh 0-4 (1f), E O'Donnell 1-0, L Murphy 0-3, M Murphy, D Ó Floinn 0-1 each.
Kilkenny: D Mason; T Ronan, M Carey, D Walsh; J Brennan, C Flynn, J Molloy; E O'Shea, N Brassil; J Roberts, C Heary, J Ryan; D Barron, A Mullen, S Ryan. Subs: N Brennan for Roberts (22); E Cody for Heary (49); J Dowd for O'Shea (58).
Dublin: C O'Donoghue; A Dunphy, B McHugh, T Kinnane; E O'Neill, L Walsh, L Gannon; D Keogh, M Murphy; M Grogan, B Coffey, D Ó Floinn; L Murphy, K Desmond, S Currie. Subs: L McDwyer for M Murphy (ht); E O'Donell for Grogan (40); J Byrne for Desmond (49); K Burke for O'Neill (54); T Aherne for Gannon (59).
Ref: A Devine (Westmeath)